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Division l - 2 nd Place

Ashish Thakur
Modesto HS Kerry Castellani
True Diversity

I consider myself a Californian, born and bred. One of my favorite things about the Golden State is

the true diversity I've experienced here. From the time I was a toddler, my Central Valley community has

been a rich tapestry of diverse cultural groups. Communities all over our great state echo this diverse

linguistic and cultural fabric that make me proud to be a Californian. Peers at my school speak Spanish,

Portuguese, Mandarin, Indonesian, Korean, Hmong and Russian among others. My hometown of Turlock is

continually hosting cultural events representing its diverse residents' countries of origin. I regularly attend

my friends' cultural celebrations such as a quinceañeras, sünnets and even a Tainan ceremony.

Participating in these cultural events and learning about different languages allows me to better understand

my peers and better serve my community, beginning in my hometown of Turlock and beyond, ensuring

California is a wonderful place in which to live, learn and work.

Yet, although one of my friend's parents work two jobs, picking grapes and maintaining bees, he

couldn't afford our school's lunches because of their immigration status. I couldn't understand how his

parents, working 12-14 hours a day, had difficulty providing for their son. I eventually learned his parents

were undocumented and their employers paid them $5/hour despite the minimum wage being $11. He was

worried that applying for the school lunch program would get his parents deported. When he injured his leg

at one point, he was hesitant to get it treated due to the manner in which the non-Spanish speaking staff

treated his parents because of their uninsured status and poor English.

The Hippocratic Oath, coined in the 19th century by an English doctor, requires that above all, a
physician do no harm. As a volunteer at a local medical clinic, I interpret this to mean that any patient who

enters our clinic, regardless of status, deserves to be treated with respect and made to feel welcome in

order to facilitate their healing. It's why I volunteered as a data collector for a language related medical

study on patient interaction.

Many patients seen at a clinic where I volunteer have limited English proficiency or speak no

English at all. A study by Dr. Nancy Longnecker found that a breakdown in communication leads to lower

satisfaction and increased misunderstandings between the patient and physician. These in turn are

conducive to lower quality of care and mistrust. It was also discovered that patients are far more satisfied

with a visit when they are able to connect and establish trust with their provider. Due to the growing

diversity of California, I feel greater attention must be placed on interpreter mediated visits to establish

quality care for patients.

Glenn Flores, a pediatrician and professor at University of Connecticut School of Medicine, 2 indicates that

medically trained interpreter mediated visits received the highest levels of satisfaction from Spanish

speakers, suggesting that trained interpreters speaking Spanish be available at all times to effectively

communicate the physician's message and assist patients throughout the visit.

More importantly, Flores indicated that a lack of interpreters makes health care providers “tend to

rely on bilingual family members, friends, or even hospital staffers who aren't trained medical interpreters,”

resulting in “more than three quarters, or 77 %” of nonprofessional interpreter caused medical errors. 3

I realize some might feel that undocumented workers shouldn't be given such consideration

because, for example, they don't pay taxes. Yet immigrants, both documented and undocumented, do
indeed file tax returns just like ordinary U.S. citizens. The Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy

indicates about half of undocumented workers in the United States file income tax returns. The most

recent IRS data shows it received 4,4 million income tax returns from workers without Social Security

numbers, including a large number of undocumented immigrants, who paid $23.6 billion in income taxes in

2015 alone. It's important to note they don't have access to federal medical care benefits, despite paying

these taxes.

Equal access to medical care, whether we are documented residents of California or not, benefits

us as a whole. For example, it ensures we have herd immunity in terms of vaccinations. It also ensures

workers, undocumented or not, are more satisfied with their jobs and their lives, improving worker morale

and interaction. We can't always be in control of where we come from—but we can demonstrate

compassion to those in our community who need our help. Robert Ingersoll says, “We rise by lifting others.”

I can't think of a better way to create a more just and peaceful world in my town, my state and country. In

light of the ever-growing diversity of the California, one of my goals is to research and identify potential

areas of improvement for the surgeon, interpreter and patient perspectives.


1 Ha, JF, Longnecker, N. Doctor-Patient Communication: A Review. Ochsner J. 2010; 10(1): 38–43.

2 Flores, G. Language Barriers to Health Care in the United States. N Engl J Med. 2006; 355:229-231.
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